Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 72
While the Indiana Pacers’ recent inability to exhibit that everything is, in fact, alright (alright, alright) has received significant media tonnage, the angst of Washington’s humble crashing, burning and shoulder-shrugging has been mostly confined to our little corner of the world, and Internet. After all, to the nation at large, the Wizards “are who we thought they were,” but no one is letting them off the hook. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, but ask your nearest kindergarten-age biped, and he will tell you that seven comes after six. And then he will solemnly turn to the television and return to watching Wild Kratts while the ocular bombardment of cartoon media ensures that he will never have the vision of a fighter pilot (no matter, the drones will save us!).
The 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, something that seemed out of slipping range even for a Nene-less Wizards team just two weeks ago, now looks incredibly attainable. Like any disaster event, this category of mudslide has not differentiated between opponent when doling out (Wizards) losses. Washington has lost to good teams (Portland, Phoenix, Miami), bad teams (Sacramento) and mediocre teams (Denver, Charlotte) alike.
Suddenly, the eyes of Wizards nation turn not to the horizon, but to the rear-view mirror. What’s this, you say? “But Ted Leonsis said his Ferrari didn’t have any rear-view mirrors.” Indeed he did.
Charlotte approaches, you guys. They really do. And while some (myself included) have thumbed their noses at the idea that Charlotte’s talent level approaches that of the Wizards, the standings say that the two teams are very, very close. A Wizards loss and a Charlotte win brings the Bobcats within a 1/2 game of Washington for the 6th seed (and salvation from Miami or Indiana in the first round).
So, tell yourself that the Pacers have been struggling, tell yourself whatever you need to hear. Enjoy these hours, these days. For the Bobcatman is coming, the Pacers beat the Heat on Wednesday, have euthanized the Wizards (93-73, 93-66) in their only two meetings this season, and Nene yet sleeps the sleep of unbasketballing.
All that said, maybe it’s competitive? Fuck it, I’m a cloak-and-dagger optimist: Wizards win by over 900 points.
Teams: Wizards vs Pacers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Pacers favored by 1.5 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: The Pacers beat the Heat on national television on Wednesday night.
As the game progressed, the increasingly aged gentlemen whose job it is to make manifest whatever non-objectionable thoughts they may be having discussed a dust-up between Lance Stephenson and Dwyane Wade. One of them had this thought, in reality an escape pod from the brain of Reggie Miller: “Every championship team needs a little crazy.” The camera zoomed in on Lance Stephenson, and he looked deranged. In the production room, a bottle of champagne was uncorked and everyone shook hands.
Does a championship team need a little crazy? And if you had to rank the top three craziest Pacers on the current roster, how would you do it?
@Jared_Wade: I don’t think a championship team needs a little crazy. In fact, I generally disagree with any assessment that says a title team “needs” anything (with the most common quality being that they need a Batman and Robin, aka 1-2 punch of superstars). That said, crazy is fun, so if you can have some, all the better. You Wizards fans know what I’m talking about.
As for Pacers Crazy Power Rankings, Lance is definitely number one. After that, it’s pretty hard. I honestly don’t even think I can come up with a number two. Like, David West is a cold cat and gets a bit ornery out on the court, but he’s really a super collected dude. It’s a pretty average group of guys after Lance.
Q #2: The 2010-11 Indiana Pacers were a sub-.500 team team that got bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
The Wizards are, as of this writing, merely one game above .500, and in danger of losing out on the 6th seed in the East, which would in my humble estimation be the death knell for any hope of advancing beyond the first round. Without a first-round pick, they’ll be looking to free agency to improve their roster. After that 2010-11 Pacers season, Paul George’s rookie year, Indiana landed David West, and evolved into a contender. There were other factors in play, to be sure, but why was David West so important as a free agent acquisition?
@Jared_Wade: The meaningful players that returned after that tough series against the Bulls were Danny Granger and a collection of young guys (George, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison, and Tyler Hansbrough). They had something, but they lacked a lot. Other than talent, they lacked leadership and an adult presence. David West, as well as George Hill, who was acquired on draft day, provided that. It really can’t be understated. Paul George was just learning how to play in this league and guys like Hibbert and Hansbrough were as inconsistent as they come, regularly letting their mood and confidence level determine their play for weeks on end.
West gave them a professional to follow. He is a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t say trite things—he only does his job, rarely complains, and scoffs at trivial and immature things. These young guys learned how to be a professional from West, as well as Hill, Jeff Foster and Dahntay Jones. Those last two guys were there before, but once West showed up and showed everyone what he was made of, the culture of the franchise tilted into the direction of maturity, professionalism and players started acting like adults. He is the patriarch of the team and I don’t think this group would have reached the level it has gotten to if Larry Bird hadn’t signed David West.
Q #3: It’s surely old news to you by now, but what is your opinion about the trade of Danny Granger for Evan Turner? Has it changed at all since the trade?
@Jared_Wade: I didn’t realize how poor of a defender Evan Turner is. Everyone thinks about Granger as a shooter and a scorer, and that was his best trait, but he grew into an excellent defender along with the rest of the team. He was smart, strong and large, so having the combination of Granger and Paul George on the wings was great because they could match up with any wing duo no matter how quick, small, bruising or large they were.
Of course, even on D, Granger isn’t what he once was, but he still understood all the team principles and did his job well out there. Turner does not. His presence, in fact, is a deterrent to the team playing good defense since he is so wildly out of position often and blowing assignments. Still, he can score and made big plays late against the Heat, so I still think he has time to fix some of his issues on the other side of the ball and be a positive force in the playoffs. I know he’ll have like one 25-point game that wins a second-round game, and that will probably make the whole thing worth it.
Over/Unders! with @Jared_Wade:
Over/under 11.5 playoff wins for the 2013-2014 Indiana Pacers?
Over. Damn you. Ummmm … they beat Miami last night and you’re essentially asking whether they will beat Miami in the ECF, so … over.
Over/under 3.5 more Greg Odens signed by the Miami Heat before it matters against the Pacers?
Over. Way over. Plus a few Yao Mings.
Over/under 4.5 more double-digit rebounding performance by Roy Hibbert in the regular season?
Under. Definitely under.
Over/under 9999.5 further iterations of the Vogel Weave before the earth cracks open and party hats spill out like a swarm of locusts?
Over. Is that a Bible plague?
Philosophical Question! with @Jared_Wade:
Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.”
Paul George has gotten his Sandra Bullock on recently (via “coming back down to earth” via Oscar-winning film Gravity), but against the Heat on Wednesday, he looked like a nascent superstar once more. How much does his success have to do with embracing what made him successful in the first place (defense), and staying away from the offense-first path that many other stars have haughtily trodden on their way to fame and glory?
@Jared_Wade: I think that’s almost all of it. You could almost see him just forgetting about “trying” to play basketball Wednesday night and just playing it. He’s a defensive wunderkind and the degree to which he relishes the challenge of defending LeBron is palpable. When that’s his focus, he is almost just going through the motions on the offensive end—in a good way. This isn’t Tony Allen trying to just hide on offense, it’s Paul George not over-thinking and just doing. His sharp instincts take over and he can just go out there and excel. It was great to see, and you just hope this was the bucket-of-water-in-the-face he needs to wake from the “Score Like a Superstar” trance he had been in since before the All-Star Game.